After a double-billing error on his car rental bill, Priceline promises Larry Lundeen a prompt refund. But it never comes, despite the online travel agency’s insistence to the contrary.
What can you do when your credit card records don’t match up with those of your travel company?
Believe it or not, you still have a few options.
Lundeen booked a $247 rental car through Priceline rental last year, but was billed twice for the same amount.
That’s not as uncommon as you might think. When you pay for a car through a so-called “opaque” travel site, you’re issued a voucher that covers the cost of the rental. Sometimes, car rental personnel disregard the voucher or don’t fully understand how to use it, and charge you again.
I don’t have the particulars of how Lundeen’s billing snafu happened. But he explains the aftermath in painstaking detail.
I called and spoke to a Priceline representative, and was assured that the problem would be corrected and that I should see a credit in next month’s credit card statement.
A month later, I called again as the credit did not show up. I was told once again that the transaction must have crossed in the mail as it had been completed on their end and that it would show up on the next billing cycle as a credit.
The next billing cycle indicated no credit and my next call resulted in my being told that I should contact the car rental company myself and resolve the billing charge. I told them that I had used Priceline.com to book the travel and that I thought it was their responsibility to correct any errors, especially in light of their assuring me that this had been done twice over the phone. I asked to speak to a supervisor and was told I would receive a call.
No call was received and I think the person simply told me this to get rid of me.
Repeated efforts to email Priceline have been in vain. His credit card company couldn’t help, either. Says Lundeen: “It is obvious from my unsuccessful attempts that Priceline has no intent on correcting the double billing error.”
So I contacted Priceline on his behalf. Its response:
We’re still looking into this one. Our records show a booking that was refunded, but that was from 2008. I’ve asked our folks to contact the customer directly, since I don’t think he’s talking about a year-old booking. But we’ll see.
Priceline has given me hope that Lundeen would be taken care of. The resolution could go one of two ways: Either he’s already been refunded, but couldn’t find the money, which happened just last week. Or Priceline didn’t return the money last year, and will fix the problem.
In the meantime, Lundeen says he’s going to contact the attorney general in his state, which I think is a good idea — assuming, of course, Priceline still has his money.
“When I think of Priceline,” he told me. “I see red.”
Lundeen had other options. He could have contacted his car rental company. He also could have escalated the complaint with his credit card company. Often, an email from a travel company indicating that you were erroneously billed can be interpreted as a letter of credit, which would allow a bank to initiate a successful dispute of the charge.
If nothing else, this underscores the necessity of monitoring your credit card statements closely. For example, last week’s case could have been resolved if the traveler had just read her credit card bill a little closer. And with closer monitoring, Lundeen’s case could have been passed along to the car rental company or, if appropriate, a small claims court, when the refund didn’t show up in a timely manner.
How about Lundeen?
“Although the double billing is not a major amount of money, it is the idea that this company feels they can stiff the consumer without consequences,” he told me. “The next time I travel I would go directly to the air lines and car rental company and not depend on a third party for services. That is a lesson I have learned.”
(Photo: BodHack/Flickr Create Commons)